After a 32 year tenure, President/CEO of Dogs for the Deaf, Inc. Robin Dickson, has announced her retirement effective the end of 2013. Dickson‘s father, Hollywood animal trainer, Roy Kabat founded Dogs for the Deaf in 1977 at the request of the American Humane Society. In 1981, then H.S. English teacher, Dickson joined the organization. The pioneer, and largest of its kind in the world, under Dickson’s leadership, it became an internationally recognized assistance dog training facility. Sams Valley based DFD rescues pups that might otherwise face animal shelters’ final needles, and trains them to become the ears of hearing-impaired persons throughout the United States, and Canada. On many occasions those precious pooches have saved their companion humans’ lives.
Several years ago, Dogs for the Deaf also expanded its scope to training autism assistance dogs for families with children on that spectrum. It also provides program assistance dogs for professionals who work with people with disabilities. These accompany professionals to work and help in the treatment or education of their patients/students. There is no charge for these specially trained dogs other than a $50 application fee. Dogs for the Deaf is funded not by taxes, but by private donations.
Dickson also owns the distinction of being a co-founder of Assistance Dogs International, a coalition group of assistance dog training organizations worldwide. She has served on the Assistance Dogs International Board of Directors as President and Secretary and has chaired the committee that wrote the certification tests for trainers and dogs.
The DFD Board will likely conduct a nation-wide search for Dickson’s successor.
Dickson says she looks forward to finally spending more time enjoying her son’s and daughter’s company and her delightful grandchildren. She can look back on a long list of spectacular achievements starting with a childhood spent in shows featuring beloved exotic animals at her dad’s Jungleland near Hollywood.
She can recall being sought out by U.S. President George W. Bush for DFD’s recognition as having one of the nation’s outstanding community service volunteers. She can quote with pride the true tales of incidents in which some of her rescued pups made headlines for alerting owners to impending perils, such as rattlesnake bites, or near-drownings.
“I’m proud of my accomplishments for 32 years.” Dickson said in a recent interview. “I’ve done a lot of things; traveled, had a successful career and lots of friends. I’m truly grateful.”
By F. C. Blake
For the Independent